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Dell XPS 15 – Performance and battery life

By Tom Honeyands

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Dell XPS 15

Summary

Our Score:

9

Dell XPS 15 – Performance

You get the option of either an Intel Core i5-7300HQ or i7-7700HQ – there’s also a Core i3 version available in the US. They’re all the latest quad-core 7th-gen Kaby Lake chips. You also get 8, 16 or 32GB of DDR4 memory running at 2,400MHz and every model (bar the i3 in the States) comes with the new desktop-class Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.

Related: Intel Core i explained

As for storage, I’d avoid the entry-level model that uses a traditional hard drive and SSD combo (Trusted docked last year’s model half a star for its slow hard disk), and go for any of the other models that have much faster 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSDs.

You won’t regret picking an SSD, either: the AS SSD benchmark saw huge read speeds of 2,441MB/s, which is up there with the MacBook Pro. Dell XPS 15 1

Processing performance is, as you’d expect, extremely competitive. It beat the Razer Blade, MacBook Pro and Gigabyte Aero 14 in the GeekBench 4 single- and multi-threaded benchmarks with scores of 4,327 and 13,259 respectively. This isn’t surprising, since all three of those review models were running older-spec i7-6700HQ processors at the time of review. Still, this is an exceptionally capable video- and photo-editing machine.

It can game, too. In Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p and with the High settings preset, the new XPS 15 scored an average of 43fps in the built-in benchmark. That’s a solid, playable frame rate from quite a demanding game at 1080p, but I’d still lower a couple of settings to boost the frame rate up to 50 or 60fps.

Related: Best Gaming Laptops

In Fallout 4, again with High settings at 1080p, the XPS achieved a very impressive 55fps average, maintaining a smooth frame rate even in hectic firefights.

Finally in the GTA 5 benchmark, the XPS 15 averaged 101fps at Full HD and High settings. But looking at benchmarks isn’t any fun, so I loaded up GTA Online and at the same settings, including having FXAA turned on, I was getting a smooth 60-70fps consistently.

While the GTX 1050 in the XPS 15 may not compete with dedicated gaming notebooks sporting the significantly more powerful 6GB GTX 1060 – such as the Razer Blade and Gigabyte Aero 14 – I was still very impressed by the gaming performance on the XPS 15.

Compared to last year’s model sporting a 960M, the GTX 1050 is on average 35% faster in most benchmarks – a decent step up. Combined with the new Kaby Lake chips which are around 10% faster, you’re looking at a decent upgrade, especially if you’re running demanding programs or games.

One issue I do have with the XPS 15, though, is fan noise. For the most part it’s dead silent, even when browsing the web or watching videos, but when you’re playing games the fan starts whirring away and becomes quite loud – to the point where you’ll probably want to plug in a pair of headphones.

The upside of this is that it remains impressively cool – even when I was running benchmarks, the laptop never heated beyond 44 degrees externally. Inside, the CPU maxed out at 70 degrees, which is well within safe limits.

Dell XPS 15 – Battery Life

The new XPS 15 comes with either a 56Wh or 97Wh battery, depending on the spec you go for. On my review model packing the larger battery, a 1-hour Netflix movie at 50% brightness and with the power-saving mode on only dropped the battery by 14%. You can expect to get around 7 hours of video playback on the XPS 15, which is very good.

Dell XPS 15 2

In our very easy Powermark benchmark run, it managed over 11 hours, which is a testament to that large battery.

Naturally if you’re playing games or doing some serious video editing you should have it plugged in to get the best performance. With general use including web browsing, watching YouTube videos and catching up with office work, I found I’d get an impressive 9 hours of life, which is around 2 hours more than I got with last year’s model.

Dell XPS 15 3

Opting for the 4K version will have a big impact on the battery, as the screen is pushing four times as many pixels. Last year's 4K model I tested ran out of juice after 4-5 hours, so I would expect the higher-end model to last for a solid six hours.

Should I buy the Dell XPS 15?

The Dell XPS 15 is well worth buying, although the spec I’m testing here is what I’d consider the sweet spot for value and performance – you can add the 4K screen for £200 more.

Compared to the Gigabyte Aero 14, which costs £100 more for a beefier specification, the choice is clear if you want a gaming machine. However, if you want a brilliant all-rounder, with great build quality, long battery life and variety of configuration options, the Dell XPS 15 is the Windows laptop for you.

It’s barely in the same class as the 15-inch MacBook Pro any more. Apple has gone its own way in terms of specifications and price, but for most people the Dell XPS 15 is better value. Only the pleasures of MacOS might tempt me away.

Verdict

No other laptop right now comes close to offering the all-round experience of the XPS 15. It’s expensive and has a few minor flaws, but it’s absolutely worth the money.

WATCH: How to choose a laptop

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 9
  • Build Quality 9
  • Design 8
  • Heat & Noise 8
  • Keyboard 8
  • Performance 9
  • Screen Quality 9
  • Touchpad 8
  • Value 8

toffeefoofoo

February 16, 2017, 4:16 pm

'Apple has gone its own way in terms of specifications and price'..

Not sure what you mean by this - the implication is that Apple is in a different (better) league than Dell with these flagship laptops.

The new XPS 15 is far superior to Macbook Pro in terms of specifications: £2099.00 will buy you the top of the line XPS 15 with i7 Kaby lake, 1 TB SSD, 32 GB RAM and 4K touch enabled screen . A maxed out but still inferior specced Macbook Pro based on i7 Skylake, with 1 TB SSD, only 16 GB RAM and questionable touch bar will cost you £3329.00. The graphics cards are comparable - reviews I can find give Dell's GeForce GTX 1050 the nod over Apple's Radeon Pro 460.

So, notwithstanding the OS debate, that 50% price hike for the Macbook Pro gives you inferior specs. And the albeit beautiful unibody aluminium.. but that is it. Durability and longevity opinions for the Dell's carbon fibre and aluminium construction however are extremely positive after 24 months constant use.

Apple has gone its own way in terms of price.. agreed. But it has been completely left behind in terms of specs here.

I thought the Apple fanboys left TrustedReviews years ago?!

Gavin

February 19, 2017, 9:30 am

I was looking to buy either the DELL XPS 13 or DELL XPS 15 to run Hyper-V and spin up a few VM's for study purposes. A quick google search has a few complaints about the 9550 models having un-fixable screen flicker when running Hyper-V

Does anyone have any experience with the new DELL XPS 9560 models and running Hyper-V? are there any issues? or can I safely buy one knowning I can spin up my homelab?

tipoo2

March 5, 2017, 5:25 pm

We're calling 4.4 pound laptops "a little heavy" these days o_O ?
That's as much as my 2015 rMBP 15 weighs, and heck, it's what the pre-retina 13 inchers weighed. Now in a quad core laptop with a 1050. My every day college laptop was 6 pounds and I carried that 20 minute walks between bus stops.

High Velocity

March 6, 2017, 12:30 am

You sir are making an excellent point. I myself as a fan of apple products has chosen the dell because of it's near apple level quality and far superior value. After looking at the options for both the xps and macbook 15, it was a no brainer for me to get the XPS. I feel that the gtx 1050 though is far more powerful than the radeon pro 460. Even the gtx 960m was neck and neck with the radeon.

Alfred Zanini

March 6, 2017, 4:10 pm

I do think that being in another league does not always mean a better league....
Specwise, you cant really compare a dual-core to a quad-core so im guessing that that is what the author meant

Robert Poole

March 10, 2017, 6:34 am

What specific problems have you and your friend encountered?

mateman

March 10, 2017, 9:58 am

I bought the previous version of the Dell XPS 15 9550 when it was first released having read similar reviews about it's amazing specs. I had read user reviews about the version before the 9550 being terrible, but it seemed as though Dell had fixed errors in the updated XPS 15 9550 so I splashed out and bought the top of the range version of it. Unfortunately they had not and a year + on, I am stuck with a laptop that just does not work properly. To be fair Dell did send out a technician to try and fix the laptop but once I got talking to him he simply told me that the laptop was just poorly built and pointed out numerous build faults. When I told Dell this, they cut off all communication and now their customer service is all but unreachable. If you have a look at reviews for the 9550 you might notice that the website reviews are high but user reviews highlight issues and rate the average user rating is very low. I see the same story being repeated here with the 9650, brilliant specs and great initial reviews by websites. It will be interesting to see what the user reviews bring up after some time. I hope Dell has stepped up its game and made a good product for the sake of anyone that might have bought this, but I would not recommend it given my experiences

Tim Hinton

March 19, 2017, 10:12 pm

I've had 2 9350's and got a 9550, its been nothing but problems. They've "repaired" it 10-12 times. Its had 4 screen and its still wrong (flashing, flickering) as well as one lid fell apart, hinges broke, next one broke touch screen, next one the screen fell out. Constant wifi issues, 2 mother boards, 2 chassis's, lots of blue screens...... customer service has been nothing but a nightmare

HawthorneRidge

March 23, 2017, 6:57 pm

I think you should just do all your Hyper-V stuff in the cloud, no?

Gavin

March 23, 2017, 7:32 pm

I don't always have access to the internet, but still need to spin up some VM's to test/troubleshoot problems. So I kinda need a lightweight portable laptop that can meet these requirements, so cloud is not an option unfortunately.

eric

March 24, 2017, 7:36 am

if you run the 4K model at 1080p, how does that affect performance and battery life?

High Velocity

May 3, 2017, 6:01 am

It would actually last a little bit longer. But remember your are still pushing 4k pixels, its just that they are interpolated to fit into 1080p. The plus benefit you do get is that you gpu is pushing a lighter load. You are much better disabling touchscreen for battery life.

technor

May 9, 2017, 1:43 pm

I just purchased the Dell XPS 4K 2017 version last week. I am playing games on it now and the performance is excellent and am able to run many of the 2015 games at full res. But I am worried about the heat, the laptop becomes extremely hot and the performance seems to slightly degrade. I guess its due to the internal throttling kicking in to manage the heat. But would you have any advise on how long I can continue playing? Is it ok to continue to play, or should I be concerned.

Maelstrome26

June 2, 2017, 12:42 pm

Do you also have Ghosting issues? My 1080p model does, it's very noticable, especially when playing games.

technor

June 18, 2017, 8:08 pm

I don't have any ghosting issues while playing games. Its primarily the heat that concerns me.

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